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Fifty Shades Shorter

July 30th, 2012

First, thanks to Linda for her post which I found particularly interesting. I tend to enjoy a ‘good’ read (and by that I mean a long read – something that I can really get into and feel I know the characters like personal friends by the time I’ve finished). So, I usually prefer sitting down with a novel rather than a collection of short stories when I’m relaxing. But after reading last week’s blog I’ll definitely be going out and buying a copy of ‘Fiction Feast’ just to check what is currently being published as ‘commercial’ short fiction.

Write a short story for The Telegraph

If you enjoy writing short stories, why not have a look at The Telegraph Short Story Club. It’s run by writing expert Louise Doughty and every week Louise’s column looks at the art of the short story and sets a writing exercise to improve your skills.

At the end of each month you can enter your story for their monthly competition. At the end of the year all the monthly winners will be invited for lunch with Louise, Gaby Wood, the Telegraph Head of Books, and a top agent and publisher. One finalist will then win £500 and will be published by the Telegraph.

Entries should be emailed to storycomp@telegraph.co.uk by the last calendar day of each month. The winner will be announced in Telegraph Review as soon as possible after that date. Entries should be no longer than 2,000 words. They can be on any subject but must be your own original work.

Top tips for writing erotica

And after sniping at ’50 Shades of Grey’ and its sequels over the past few weeks I thought it only fair to suggest some tips for writing successful erotica that we all agree on, here at Writers Bureau:

• Don’t confuse erotica with pornography. The latter usually provides graphic descriptions of the nuts and bolts of sex. Erotica, on the other hand, is much more cerebral, dealing with the magic of sexual passion.

• You can’t get by with just a series of sexual encounters. You need to come up with a proper, gripping plot. It’s just as important as in any other genre if you are to keep your reader hooked.

• You need a proper balance between fantasy and credibility. Are a couple – however infatuated – going to rip off their clothes in the fruit and veg section of the supermarket in the middle of the afternoon? Is a middle-aged, over-weight, balding librarian really going to be a babe-magnet, fighting women off at every turn?

• You need the right setting – a sexually charged location. It has to be exotic, intriguing or glamorous – penthouse apartments, a millionaire’s yacht or a Victorian boudoir. Avoid squalor – the majority of readers are not turned on by public toilets.

• Power is an aphrodisiac. Can there be any other reason why so many women seem to be attracted to ugly politicians and statesmen? Alternatively, think about the dynamic where one character has absolute power over another – the willing sex slave.

• This is one genre where historical settings are still in demand. Consider the license that masqued balls, country house parties and the Victorian master-servant relationship provide. Think of the clothing your characters might wear (or enjoy taking off) – basques, corsets, riding breeches!

• Get the mood right and take especial care with the language you use when describing behaviour and body parts. If you are too polite the story will sound twee; if you are too graphic it will be seedy. Try to strike a balance. And remember, a good erotic tale doesn’t need swearing and sexual insults.

• Writing erotica isn’t an easy option. In fact, it’s one of the most demanding genres. You need to be able to creative atmosphere, tension and sexual frisson to make it work.

• This is one of the few areas where using a pen-name is acceptable. Many well-known authors write erotica under a pseudonym.

Finally… know the taboos. Most outlets for erotica are fairly liberal but you must do your market research as thoroughly as you would for any other genre. Most magazines/ezines will have guidelines; so check them out before sending in your work.

So, being fair, I think Fifty Shades of Grey ticks most of the boxes, but it does just go on… and on… and on… a bit!

My guest next week is Shuchi Kalra, a Writers Bureau student living in India who now successfully runs her own writing business.

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